Spices/dried herbs for mediterranean salad?

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by french fries, Aug 8, 2011.

  1. french fries

    french fries

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    I was working in an area which has a lot of mediterranean restaurants and I sampled salads from 3 different restaurants. All of them were something like cucumber-onion-green bell pepper-tomatoe-black olives-feta with healthy dose of olive oil. 

    One thing that stunned me is that all of them had spices and dried herbs. I've never thought of putting spices or dried herbs in a salad! OK maybe Sumac, but that's as far as I've ever been. 

    So aside from Sumac, what kind of dried herbs do you recommend trying? 

    It was very good but very hard (for me anyway) to pinpoint what kind of herbs they were using. 
     
  2. ishbel

    ishbel

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    Sometimes I add oregano.  Sometimes I add herbes de provence.  Sometimes I just add some lemon thyme.  Depends on what I'm serving the salad with...!
     
  3. french fries

    french fries

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    Thanks Ishbel. I was thinking of a salad that is served by itself, for example as an appetizer. Or maybe as a side to a grilled pork chop or lamb chop. 

    I was thinking that it there was probably some dried oregano in the salads I ate, but there were definitely more than one spice/herb, I suppose they make their own dried herb mix...
     
  4. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    I'm not in favor of using dried herbs in salads at all. Remember, a lot of dried herbes taste many times stronger than fresh ones. However, a small amount of dried herbs and spices mixed in olive oil or the vinaigrette first would work.

    I prefer fresh "soft" herbs in salads. It's summer and they are abundantly available; parcely, oregano, chives, tarragon, savory, lemon verbena, lemon melissa, mint, basil. I grow all of these in my garden except for basil that goes in a large flowerpot. I keep it inside since I discovered it doesn't like rain and sunshine. I made several batches of pesto this year from just 1 basil plant! Incredible, it keeps growing.

    The "not-soft" herbs like rosemary and thymes don't go in my salads. But again, there are no rules in cooking except your own.

    Yesterday I made cannelloni with Barilla lasagna sheets that I precooked shortly to soften. Filled them with ricotta + an egg, a little panko and a fresh herb mixture. I blanched 2 generous handfulls of ruccola for maybe 20 seconds together with parcely, tarragon, lemon verbena and lemon melissa. Cool in icewater, cut the herbs roughly with a knife (don't blend!) and mix in the ricotta with a nice amount of grated parmezan. Put on softened lasagne sheets and roll into cannelloni. Cover with a light tomato sauce and parmezan. 30 minutes in the oven... waaaw!
     
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  5. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Someone should get in touch with Greece and tell them to stop with the dried oregano.

    BDL
     
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  6. ishbel

    ishbel

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    Not just Greece, BDL - I've had it added to salads in Spain, Portugal and even (gasp)Italy!
     
  7. nicholas beebe

    nicholas beebe

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    No, no, no, no. One of my favorite greek salads was tomato, cucumber, onion, oil, salt, and vinegar tossed together with feta and kalamata olives on top. It was great when the tomatoes were in season. Dry herbs in such salads are just going to stay all desiccated. The texture isn't appealing. If they are ground and left in a pre-mixed vinaigrette, they can add flavor to that vinaigrette, but I see no reason to go with dry if you can get fresh for a reasonable price. If you are using herbs in a salad that you are mixing a la minute, use fresh. Always use fresh. If you don't have fresh ingredients for a greek salad, don't make a greek salad.

    tl,dr: Fresh herbs taste better and have better texture. Use fresh herbs.
     
  8. ishbel

    ishbel

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    I have eaten Greek salads in mainland Greece and many of the islands.  They are generally sprinkled with DRIED herbs, usually on the feta, and under the olive oil,  as I think BDL was trying to say.
     
  9. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Ishbel has my meaning pretty closely.  Dried herbs in salads are very common in every part of the Mediterranean -- or at least everywhere I've been and that's a lot of places (Spain, France, Italy, Sicily, both sides of the Adriatic, both sides of the Aegean, Greece, the Greek Islands, Malta, Turkey, Israel, and Morocco).  They may not use dried herbs much in Chris's part of Belgium and wherever Nicholas is from, but in the Med they do. 

    I tried saying it funny, but it didn't penetrate. 

    Salads are by no means their exclusive province.  By way of one example, it's very common throughout the region to crush dried herbs between the fingers and sprinkle them on grilled meats just as they come off the fire.

    BDL
     
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  10. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    I tried saying it funny, but it didn't penetrate

    Maybe not with some folks, Boar. Me, I got a good chuckle out of it.
     
  11. french fries

    french fries

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    Thanks guys. So aside from dried oregano and sumac, any other idea?
     
  12. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Originally Posted by French Fries  

    As a start, if I knew anyone from... say... France, I'd ask "Amigo, que clases de yerbas en fines herbes?"  Why would I ask in Spanish?  Another good question.  Quien sabe?

    [Gallic shrug]

    BDL
     
  13. french fries

    french fries

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    Thanks BDL. By 'fines herbes' do you mean specifically chives, chervil, parsley and tarragon? In France we use the term 'fines herbes' to designate just about any cooking herb, really. 
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2011
  14. nicholas beebe

    nicholas beebe

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    Sorry I wasn't helpful before OP. Thyme, marjoram, tarragon, basil, and dill leap to mind. I'd be looking for anything that wouldn't overpower such a mild salad or give it an unpleasant texture. Juniper berries might be good, but they might throw off the texture. Maybe see if you can grind them with a mortar and pestle? I've never tried it. I've never had good luck with dried parsley or chives, especially parsley. It kind of reminds me of the bedding used in hamster cages, but your mileage may vary.

    BDL: Sabes porque ellos los hacen? I don't understand why people from a region where fresh herbs should be easy to obtain would pick dried over fresh.
     
  15. rgm2

    rgm2

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    So then maybe any cooking herb that is common the to area of the Mediterranean you are channeling with your meal. Just a thought...
     
  16. chefedb

    chefedb

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    Nothing wrong with dried herbs. As BDL states they are used all over the planet. I say that with a provisso that you do not use the jar of oregano or thyme you have had in your pantry for 2 years. Also keep in mind a little bit of good dry herbs go a long way so be careful with quantity used. Also cooking makes thm stronger in most cases.
     
  17. chrisbelgium

    chrisbelgium

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    Wait a minute, "fines herbes" are ALWAYS a combination of FRESH herbs, mostly parcely, chives, tarragon and chervil, many times combined with finely chopped shallot. It's used and well known in rounds of butter served on grilled meat etc. in french aka "buerre maître d'hôtel". You will also find fines herbes in omelettes, sauce tartare, béarnaise, choron, in vinaigrettes and other preparations. I dry a lot of my own homegrown herbs. Don't know if you ever tried dried parcely or chives? Well, taste is.. zero. Dried tarragon tastes like... hay!

    Then there's "herbes de provence" which is ALWAYS a combo of DRIED herbs, obviously from the Provence region in France. It contains mainly thyme, rosemary, oregano and/or marjoram, savory. In the seventies and eighties of the past century, people threw it on everything, mostly also on grilled meat, not on salads. Nowadays it's almost a sin in gastronomy to use herbes de provence, as most contemporary chefs make a more appropriate and more refined choice of herbs they use in specific recipes, mostly fresh -when available- of course!

    A propos, I do still like herbes de provence on grilled lamb. I throw handfuls of it on the hot charcoal on the bbq, just for the ambiance, the smell reminds me of the south of France many years ago.

    BTW, love your spanglish BDL! Also, one small hint for next time; it's hierbas, not yerbas.
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2011
  18. koukouvagia

    koukouvagia

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    I agree completely... but only on salads.  Dried oregano has wonderful purposes, even more so than fresh oregano imho - I love it on roasts and grilled meats.  But unless it has been mixed in a vinegraitte and allowed to permeate the vinegraitte I don't want it on my salad.  But as Siduri and I surmised in a previous thread, there is no such thing as making a vinegraitte in a jar, the salad is dressed one ingredient at a time and the dried oregano always is the last to be sprinkled on top.  Unfortunately you can't get a greek to change their ways no matter how much you pay them.  There will forever be dried oregano sprinkled on top of feta sitting on top of a "greek" salad.
     
     
  19. chefedb

    chefedb

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    Herbs de provence were a requirement in al Pate's at one time
     
  20. ishbel

    ishbel

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    It may nowadays be 'almost a sin against gastronomy' to use herbes de Provence, Chris, but I still use it a lot.  But then, I'm an iggerant Scotswoman!